Foot-patrol officers working to change perception of police

Chance Swaim

Officers Chad Agnew and Jeff Albert make it a point to wave at everyone they pass.

They try to interact with students and faculty to build relationships with the hope of increasing safety on campus, while also making students feel more comfortable reporting crime.

“I think it’s a really huge deal,” Albert said. “A lot of kids know our last names, some of the students know our first names. We want students to be able to approach us when they’re in trouble or otherwise . . . even if it’s just to tell us they had a bad day or they did something cool.”

In two months of patrols on foot, Agnew and Albert said they can already tell the difference in the perception of police officers by students.

“People — especially college kids — think that any time the cops are there, it’s always bad,” Agnew said. “Which I understand. We’ve all been young, we know what it’s like.”

Wichita State hired four additional officers earlier this fall to join Albert and Agnew on foot. Now, Agnew said, some students will ask to follow him and Albert around during their shift.

“The kids are great here,” Agnew said.

Agnew and Albert patrol the interior campus — including walk-throughs in Shocker Hall and Fairmount Towers — to allow officers in vehicles to patrol the perimeters of campus.

One of the keys to their success, the two agree, is their opposite personalities.

“On our personality tests, we scored completely different, and we get along like no other,” Albert said.

They said their jobs would be much  more difficult if they had to work alone. They patrol from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday.

“We feed off each other,” Agnew said. “My interests are different from his interests, so I’ll kind of pull him along and he’ll kind of pull me along, and it makes us both better.”

Agnew and Albert work as a team and said they would not have it any other way.

“We’ll ask each other sometimes, ‘You know, is work supposed to be fun?’”

Albert said. “It’s supposed to be. I come from aircraft working before this . . . I can’t believe that we actually get to do this. We’re having fun out here.”

Patrolling campus is not always fun, they said.

“Some people make the mistake that we’re security guards or something,” Agnew said. “But we’re fully commissioned officers, and we had to go through the academy. That’s why we get to carry guns.”

Agnew said he and Albert do the same things as the guys in cars.

“If there’s a call over the radio, and we’re close by then we’ll take it,” Agnew said.

Albert and Agnew have been quizzing students on safety and rewarding safe activities — such as having UPD’s number programmed into their phones — with gift cards and coupons.

“We’re not just here to police students,” Albert said. “We’re trying to be a part of their lives while they’re here, and it’s been so rewarding in that way.”